The Falcons were absolutely manhandled by the Panthers last week, specifically up front in the trenches. It shouldn’t be entirely surprising either; Atlanta’s lack of talent and depth across the offensive and defensive lines is evident. It wasn’t just the poor play by the big uglies, either. The unexpected loss of Calvin Ridley played a factor, which led the Carolina defense to focus on Kyle Pitts, effectively bracketing him with multiple defenders the entire game.
Before the Panthers game, the entire offense was humming. Arthur Smith found a groove calling plays, the offensive line kept their quarterback upright, Kyle Pitts torched defenses, and Matt Ryan looked phenomenal. For the offense to get back on track this week, the line has to keep Matty Ice’s jersey clean first and foremost. The second-most important factor in putting up points on the Saints is Arthur Smith’s offensive creativity.
The Falcons don’t have many matchups to take advantage of on paper because this Saints’ defense is just as stingy as ever. At all levels, New Orleans has talent. Even after losing several key pieces — Sheldon Rankins and Trey Hendrickson — this past offseason, they’re one of the best units in the league. Their pass rush is ferocious, and their secondary is littered with All-Pros.
They have an elite defense, which doesn’t bode well for Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis. It starts up front with Cam Jordan, David Onyemata, Shy Tuttle, and Marcus Davenport. But they have an impressive depth of defensive linemen in Tanoh Kpassagnon and Payton Turner too. Then, at the second level of the defense, the Saints have two incredibly athletic linebackers in Kwon Alexander and Demario Davis. The latter is one of the best in the league at his position. Behind them, New Orleans has two All-Pro caliber defensive backs in Marcus Williams and Marshon Lattimore. At the same time, veteran Malcolm Jenkins‘ experience is valuable, and rookie Paulson Adebo has performed well through his first seven games.
There aren’t many weaknesses on this Saints defense, but the Falcons will still have to find particular matchups that favor them — namely, Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Pitts. Dennis Allen will surely devise a plan to take Pitts away. Using a combination of different coverages, he will likely throw the kitchen sink at him.
Marshon Lattimore will likely get the call on some snaps, given Calvin Ridley’s absence; Marcus Williams, Malcolm Jenkins, and Demario Davis will garner some assignments too. I believe the key to victory Sunday for the Falcons and Arthur Smith is to highlight Cordarrelle Patterson as a runner and receiver out of the backfield, in the slot, in motion and split out wide. If Smith doesn’t get creative with his play calling, the Falcons have no chance.